Nekton Gosport trip 2015. (By Jeremy Swann)
Our plan was to join Mick’s boat, MV Sussex, at Eastbourne on Thursday the 20th August, sail to Gosport doing 2 dives en route, spend 2 days at Gosport diving to the east of the Isle of Wight and return to Eastbourne on the Sunday again diving 2 wrecks.
As Mick wanted a 5 o’clock am start on the Thursday we all drove down on the Wednesday, parked in the underground car park, negotiated a labyrinthine series of security doors and loaded our equipment onto the boat.
Most of us were onboard MV Sussex at 5 am to load the portable compressor onto the bench at the back of the boat. This achieved a call to the washrooms and were out of the harbour by 6:40 am to an overcast sea running a slight swell. The tide was running with us and with the low water slack of 9:15 we reached the SS Stanwold for the first dive. The SS Stanwold was built in 1909 and was lost with all hands on the 22nd February 1941. She lies at 36 meters, 9 meters proud and lying on her port side nearly upside down. We were all out of the water by 10:08 am and continued sailing westwards, mindful that the high water slack would be at 2 o’clock pm. The tide was now running against us and by 2 o’clock pm we had reached an unknown wreck at 28 meters which we decided to dive. After some research we agreed that the wreck was the Gascony sunk by a torpedo on the 7th January 1918.
I had booked the Premier Inn at Gosport but it was situated some way from the centre and away from any restaurants or recommended pubs. The marina is situated in the heart of Gosport next to pubs and restaurants and with all necessary facilities. Much easier to shower, change and find the nearest pub. The Castle Tavern, a good minute from the marina, serves an excellent pint of Doombar and Harveys and good pub grub. There was no need to go any further.
The taxi rank was next to the pub and my research on busses and times was ignored in favour of a cab and another booked for the morning.
We had a problem with fuel as the boat didn’t have sufficient for our planned dives. At Eastbourne marina the fuel pumps are open 24×7. However in Gosport they are open from 9 to 5, unless you book. This meant no departure at 7 am and a dive on low water slack. We decided to dive the Luis as it is tucked in close to land and can be dived up to 3 hours before high water. The other wrecks close by need to be dived later, an hour before high water. It was an idea but as the Luis is shallow and a good rummage, by the time we had all surfaced and the cylinders pumped we had missed the slack.
A dive off Bembridge met no interest and instead we lazed in the sun on the upper desk as Mick slowly returned to Gosport.
Gosport marina is full of beautiful yachts, some are the thoroughbred of the yachting world, boats designed simply for speed and striped to their functional bare bones. Some of our party were positively drooling over them.
A good pint and food awaited us at The Castle Tavern and we spent the evening sitting out in the sun drinking until supper.
Elliott joined us to dive the weekend arriving on the last train from London and the last ferry from Portsmouth.
The skipper had heard of an unknown and little dived wreck much recommended by other divers. This seemed more interesting than the planned dive on the Wapello or Camberwell. The wreck is a long way from Gosport and we left the marina at 6:40 am. The dive was excellent and enjoyed by everyone. We managed to find plates, broken but with the makers name, a glass and floor tiles. Elliott also found part of a sextant which possibly may have a number that could be traced and help name the wreck. Guy duly made a list of items recovered and sent it to the Receivers of Wrecks.
For the second dive some divers wanted to revisit the Luis while others wanted to dive the Camswain.
Being our last night in Gosport we decided to eat at a recommended Chinese restaurant called The Great Wall. The restaurant faces the ferry and gives great views across the entrance to Portsmouth harbour, the Spinnaker Tower and the ships sailing in and out. The restaurant offers a buffet which allows you to eat any dish and a many as you like. All this and the others diners made a fun meal.
We planned to dive the Basil on the way back and I gave the skipper the co-ordinates and a slack of 10:23. We reached the correct spot but the depth was wrong and although there was a wreck it was not the Basil. The co-ordinates for the Basil are given in Dive Sussex and checked out with www.wrecksite.eu. Both it turned out are wrong, very embarrassing. Mick tried to find the correct depth and the wreck but couldn’t. We needed to dive on the low water slack and so we dived what we had. The wreck itself was very small and broken up but home to a large number of lobsters and crabs. The wreck was a disappointment but we all came up with food.
Nobody wanted to wait for slack off Beachy Head as it would mean a late return to Eastbourne and only Elliott and I wanted to do a drift dive. A large storm was gathering in the Atlantic and we were catching the beginnings of it. With the swell it was thought any dive site close to shore would have very limited viz so we needed to stay deep. The Lalen Mendi looked an interesting wreck and was en route to Eastbourne. As the swell was too rough to use the compressor Elliott and I plundered Gi’s unused cylinders and kitted up. Mick dropped us off upstream of the wreck with the advice that if we didn’t find it within minutes we had missed it. We clipped a buddy line between us and made a rapid decent hitting the wreck within the few minutes. The tide was running swiftly and we hung on until we were able to tuck into the lee of the wreck. The Lalen Mendi was built in 1896 and torpedoed on its way to Bilbao on the 17th November 1917 with a cargo of coal. The wreck is broken up but much is still intact. On reaching the end of the wreck Elliott switched cylinders only to find that he had had a freeflow and it was empty. That was the end of the dive and after a deep stop at 15 meters and 10 minutes of deco at 5 meters we surfaced with sufficient but less than recommended pressures. A good use of a buddy line.
The storm that had been threatening us over the weekend finally struck and showed how much luck plays in diving. We had enjoyed sun and calm seas, the following week was blown out.